The Arlington County School Board approved new attendance boundaries for several South Arlington elementary schools last week. The changes mean that an estimated 350 to 650 students could be transferred to different schools next year to alleviate crowding.

The new attendance zones, the first major boundary changes in 20 years, will alleviate crowding at Barcroft, Randolph and Carlin Springs elementaries, officials said, by transferring some students to Hoffman-Boston and Abingdon schools.

Parent Inta Malis, who headed the 44-member Boundary Development and Program Planning Committee, said redrawing the boundaries was a more viable option than building additional classrooms or new schools to accommodate the growing student population because building new facilities would be costly and take several years.

"This is a quiet resolution to a hugely controversial issue," Malis said. The boundary committee spent a year developing the plan.

The board also approved a new committee to explore the status of Drew Model Elementary School, one of two countywide magnet schools. In recent weeks, some residents of Nauck, the community where the school is located, have campaigned to return Drew Model to a neighborhood school.

However, parents of children attending the school who live outside the neighborhood want it to remain a magnet program. They said the alternative programs it offers are invaluable.

School officials said they do not know whether those programs would be lost if the school again became a neighborhood school.

The new committee will have the flexibility to "look at many things regarding Drew and its relationship to Nauck," School Board Chair Elaine S. Furlow said.

Next Thursday, Superintendent Robert G. Smith is to present the board with recommendations as to how the committee should be set up. Any changes to Drew would not happen until 2004, Furlow said.

Other changes approved in the boundary plan include:

* A grandfather clause to allow rising fourth- and fifth-graders enrolled as of next June in any schools affected by the boundary changes to remain at that school, with transportation provided. The clause also provides a two-year waiver to the transfer policy to allow preference for siblings of those students who are enrolled with their older siblings as of June.

Transportation will be provided for two years. After that, parents must provide transportation for any child still at the school.

* Providing transportation to transfer students back to their original schools to participate in extended-day programs until 6 p.m. if their parents choose that option.

* Altering Campbell Elementary's admission policies to make it easier for children meeting certain criteria to transfer there.

With the changes, no child will be transferred more than once during elementary school years, officials said.